After the fiasco that was Avengers: Age of Ultron I had great reservations regarding Ant-Man. The trailer seemed promising enough, but I still had some concerns about the departure of Edgar Wright and how that might have impacted the quality of the movie, as well as being weary of the prospect of having to live through yet another barrage of increasinly annoying reoccurring staples of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: forced humor, poorly developed villain, a dull central plot, etc. While Ant-Man did unfortunately feature everything I just listed, to my surprise I found myself actually having fun with the movie. Rather than walking out of the movie hating it or rolling my eyes while it was still playing, for the most part I was adequately entertained. It was a refreshing change of pace in a lot of ways, so much so that I now find myself being slightly optimistic about the upcoming MCU movies again.
Never the less, the movie still had some really massive flaws. Darren Cross, played by the always likable Corey Stoll, was yet another entry in the long list of generic mustache twirling MCU villains with little pathos and forgettable personality. It was like watching Robert Redford in Captain America: Winter Soldier all over again. Great actor doing his best with the material that was available, but when you’ve only given an inch to play with, your character ultimately feels hollow. There was flicker of promise in Darren being Hank Pym’s former embittered assistant with who. Pym refused to share his secrets. That could have turned into a really good and compelling motivation with some gravitas and personal weight under it, had it been allowed to be developed. But unfortunately Marvel would rather just have Cross commit murder out of the blue with little provocation within the first ten minutes he’s on screen, and just grow more and more irrational and villainous as the movie goes on, with little internal logic to explain why. There’s talk about the technology to shrink making you crazy if you don’t wear a protective helmet, but that doesn’t really hold water when it comes to explaining Cross’s sideline in murdering people who brush against him the wrong way. For one thing, he wasn’t shrinking until the very end of the movie, and if merely being close to the Pym particles made you crazy, shouldn’t the entire lab be filled with homicidal lunatics? It just reeks of last minute change, probably made in the editing room where they cut something vital from the plot.
There have been some complaints about Hope being so heavily sideline from the plot that comes off a bit misogynistic, and I have to agree with them to a degree. It’s pretty dumb how much the movie insists that she can’t do the heist when she’s shown to be far more suitable to the job than Scott Lang. They even had her teach Scott how to punch people for Pete’s sake. Honestly, until just before Cross gets a whiff of Pym planning something like a day before the heist was set to go down, they had no need for Scott. Hank had already planned everything and the only time Scott becomes useful to the heist is when he figures out how to sneak in after Cross orders all the additional security that ruins the original plan. And the whole Hope gets sidelined thing would have been so easy to fix: Hope has a broken arm/leg that makes it too risky to try do it herself. That would have been the logical way to introduce Scott into the game, he was simply a last minute replacement because they were desperate. Far better than old man Pym basically stalking Scott for who knows how long and just hoping he’ll work out. They do try to handwave the issue by playing the overprotective daddy card with Pym at one point, but considering how little development Hank and Hope’s troubled relationship gets and how minor their interaction ends up being in the movie, it just feels cheap. And of course they manage to ruin the one really good father/daughter moment with Paul Rudd throwing a dumb joke. The tease about Hope becoming Wasp was also pretty lame because it just rubs salt to the wounds, rather than being a cool tease for future movies. Why not just have her as the Wasp be part of the heist as well?
I also didn’t like the forced family drama. It’s such a cliché. Usually I quite enjoy Bobby Cannavale as an actor, but good grief did his role in the story feel superfluous. He’s the generic new boyfriend to Scott’s ex-wife, so naturally he has to act a bit like a douche towards Scott so that they can have a completely dumb and forced antagonism thing going on between the two of them. For you see, he’s also a cop, so you also have this inane “stay away from my new family, you criminal” routine going on, which means Bobby gets to show up once in awhile to remind us that he’s trying to bust Scott and send him back to jail after Scott gets arrested for breaking into Pym’s house and then flees by using the Ant-Man suit. The sole good thing about Bobby’s character is that after Scott saves the day, he actually becomes somewhat friendly with Scott and they all are able to have a family dinner together, meaning they didn’t try to hook Scott with his ex and make Bobby get dumped, which would have happened were this a romantic comedy. But that barely makes up for the rest of the movie. He might as well not be in the story, it’s so awkward and meaningless role that could have been better off if he had been written out completely.
As for the comedy, it’s a bit of a hit and miss affair. They’ve actually toned the frequency of the jokes down considerably compared to AoU which is a welcomed change and most of the time the jokes are even decent. When it’s well done, it’s stuff like Michael Peña’s narrated stories which were very entertaining. When it’s a miss, you get dumb jokes like the voice activated music gag during the fight scene inside the briefcase or few of the incredibly unfunny cutaway gags, like showing the enlarged ant running around the neighborhood.
That about covers it. Overall, Ant-Man was flawed, but kinda charming and fun little romp. It was mostly a positive experience, which was a welcomed change after the last few disappointments.